It's been an incredible run for the Sacred Heart Prep football program the last four years. The Gators have won four consecutive Central Coast Section championships, made two state championship game appearances and completed the transition from small-school power to being included among the biggest and the best.
They lost a number of key performers off last year's team that won a CCS Open Division III title and played in the state Division III-A championship game. Players like quarterback Mason Randall, tight end Andrew Daschbach, running back Lapitu Mahoni and a number of linemen.
"This will be rebuilding year, let's face it,'' SHP coach Pete Lavorato said., "But we'll be fine. There might be some losing at the beginning, but if we can just hang in there for a while ...''
That's the way it went last year. The Gators were coming off a 13-0 season, lost two of their first three, but then got it going all the way to the state finals.
"We have some good athletes,'' Lavorato said. "Nice kids who are athletic.''
Randall, now at the University of San Diego, is the biggest piece to replace. He started 40 games, a number virtually unheard of for a high school quarterback, over three years and was great in the clutch.
Thomas Wine will take over at QB. He was the backup last year and played a lot on defense at strong safety.
"He's a very good athlete,'' Lavorato sad. "A bit more of a runner than Mason, but he can throw.''
Wine (pronounced Winnie) welcomes the challenge.
"I feel I learned a lot from Mason last year,'' Wine said. "I'm very grateful for all the mentorship I've received.''
Big shoes to fill and a high standard to maintain. The Gators have gone 49-7 over the last four years.
"It's high school football so you lose guys every year,'' Wine said. "I'm really excited about some of the young guys, some of the young linemen coming up from the JV team. I'm excited to see what they can do.''
Mahoni is gone at running back, but Isoa Moimoi returns after rushing for 1,108 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior.
"The first couple of games will be a testament to what kind of team we can be,'' Moimoi said. "I think this group of guys here have the potential to be great.''
Isaiah Broughton is a candidate to replace Mahoni at the other running back slot.
Alex Harper returns at flyback. Michael Mooring is a top wide receiver. Kevin Tinsley steps in for Daschbach, now playing baseball at Stanford, at tight end.
"He's faster than Daschbach and a good blocker,'' Lavorato said.
Center Kyle Stalder is a third-year starter on the offensive line. Guard Josh Suzuki is another returning starter.
On defense the secondary is a strength. James Kirkham returns at free safety and Schafer Kraemer at cornerback. Jeff Donnelly is penciled in at strong safety.
David Peterson showed flashes of talent and potential at linebacker last year as a sophomore. Brendan Semien has moved from defensive end to inside linebacker. Sean Clark and John McCrory will start on the defensive line.
Kicker Peter Larson returns.
"We should be OK,'' Lavorato said. "Like last year it might take a while to get our feet under us. Then we'll be OK.''